Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 16 February 2017) . . Page.. 593 ..
I appreciate the briefing I have received from the department of corrections. In that briefing, I was advised that a number of activities are underway to ascertain if similar issues may exist anywhere else in the directorate. I am pleased to hear it, but I am surprised it has to happen.
I ask the minister to provide assurance to us today that there will not be any more significant oversights such as the one that I was euphemistically told was an administrative oversight but that the people of Canberra would clearly see as a breach of trust. Now we have a situation where the minister has injured guards, which he sees as inevitable, delegations not being properly put in place and 32 women being housed in a 29-bed facility in the women’s prison. I ask the minister to explain.
MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for Regulatory Services, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (12.00): The purpose of the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 is to put beyond doubt the effects of an administrative oversight with the intensive corrections orders scheme in 2016. The administrative oversight needs to be solved quickly to provide the government and the community with certainty.
The intensive corrections orders scheme provides an option for intensively monitored, community-based sentences. The scheme is designed to be a last resort alternative to jail. Intensive corrections orders are made by courts in the ACT and administered by ACT Corrective Services. Intensive monitoring necessarily means that ACT Corrective Services staff play a hands-on role in the administration of each intensive corrections order.
Minister Rattenbury explained the administrative error that gave rise to this bill when he introduced it. Under the relevant legislation the Director-General of Justice and Community Safety has certain functions to administer the scheme. An example is the function of receiving routine drug tests as part of an order. The power to carry out these functions was not delegated to the front-line staff who engaged with the courts and sentenced offenders in administering ICOs. The result is that, arguably, all administrative action taken in relation to a person who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to one of these orders was without proper authority from April to May 2016.
It is important to recognise that this is a technical argument only. I would like to emphasise that every person who was sentenced to an intensive correction order gave informed consent. In the first place, the terms of an order are set out by the court with the agreement of the person being sentenced. Any conditions, including residence, weekly reporting and drug testing, would have been agreed to as part of the court process. Further, any consequences as a result of breaching those conditions had to be considered and ordered by the Sentence Administration Board. These features of the scheme mean that ultimately the role of delegations was an administrative error that made no substantive difference in how the sentences of the affected people were administered.